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Two cities, two mayors’ budgets — and now it’s up to two city councils

Mayor Jacob Frey, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo
MinnPost photo by Tiffany Bui
After Mayor Jacob Frey's address, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said his role in the matter is as the messenger of his department’s resource needs, and said he would do the best with what resources he has.

A tale of two city budgets played out on Thursday, as Minneapolis and St. Paul Mayors Jacob Frey and Melvin Carter announced their list of funding priorities.

While St. Paul’s budget proposal was unveiled as planned, in Minneapolis Frey’s address came in fits and starts as protesters interrupted his speech throughout the hourlong presentation. Reclaim the Block and the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar Clark — two groups advocating for police accountability — arrived at City Council chambers with a list of demands addressing police brutality. 

Despite the disruptions (one of which came from City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins, who warned the crowd that security would clear the room if they did not settle down), Frey eventually managed to get through his address. Here are four takeaways from the policy areas covered by both Minneapolis and St. Paul budgets.

Big picture: Levy hikes

Frey’s proposed budget for Minneapolis came in at $1.6 billion, while Carter’s proposal for St. Paul was $622 million. Both mayors are suggesting increased property tax levies to help pay for their budget priorities.

For Minneapolis, that would mean a property tax levy increase of 6.95 percent. 

In St. Paul, Carter proposed a 4.85 percent increase in the tax levy, emphasizing the need to plug a $17.1 million gap in the budget. To help close that gap the state Legislature chipped in $4 million. Making budget will also involve cutting in all departments to save $4 million. 

Public safety: Frey wants to add police; Carter wants reduction

In July, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said he wanted to add 400 more patrol officers by 2025; Frey rejected that request, but he did propose adding 14 new cops next year: eight neighborhood outreach officers, three sex crimes and domestic assault investigators, and three traffic enforcement officers. 

On Thursday, Frey said the city needs more officers to keep pace with a growing population. “There is no time to waste on false choices and binary options in addressing the causes of crime and violence in our city,” he said. “We need safety beyond policing, but we still need police.”

After Frey’s address, Arradondo said his role in the matter is as the messenger of his department’s resource needs, and said he would do the best with what resources he has. “I will continue to make the case in terms of where we’re at,” he said. “I know that for many, it was quite the culture shock for the Minneapolis police chief to propose where we need to be in the projected five years. But I also recognize that as chief, I’m responsible for public safety and giving those numbers out, but I also understand the enormous responsibility that as the leader of this city the mayor has.”

Frey also proposed expanding funding to two alternative policing initiatives: the Group Violence Intervention Program created in response to gun violence, and the co-responder program, which pairs an officer with a social worker. 

He also addressed the opioid epidemic, which “has left no corner of our city untouched.” Citing the strain the crisis has taken on first responders and the disproportionate impact it’s had on Native Americans, Frey proposed adding another $400,000 to the city’s opioid task force.

Mayor Melvin Carter
MinnPost photo by Tiffany Bui
In St. Paul, Mayor Melvin Carter proposed a 4.85 percent increase in the tax levy, emphasizing the need to plug a $17.1 million gap in the budget.
In St. Paul, Carter cut spending in all city departments to make up for the anticipated $17.1 million shortfall in the budget. At the police department, those cuts would result in five fewer officers on the force. “None of these reductions are ideal,” he said.

However, the police department’s budget would still get a $4.5 million increase, higher than any other city department, and he noted that the department will still have more officers patrolling neighborhoods than ever before. A city that fails to address the root causes of economic and social isolation that keep people feeling desperate can never hire enough police officers,” he said.

Carter also said the 89-year-old Fire Station No. 7 on the east side of St. Paul will receive $2 million for reconstruction. 

Streets, neighborhoods and housing: Fixing houses and roads

On the heels of his $40 million push to address affordable housing in last year’s budget, Frey wants to add another $31 million to the effort in the coming budget. Combined with state and federal funds, Frey said a total of $130 million is budgeted for affordable housing, while $52 million in the next eight years would go to other housing projects. 

He pointed to the Minneapolis Homes program, which turns vacant lots into housing, as an indicator of the Minneapolis’ success in increasing affordable housing in the city. Under the program, the number of affordable units approved would double from 40 units in previous years to 90 units. 

In St. Paul, though Carter reaffirmed the need to pass a fair housing policy agenda —and to keep investing in the affordable housing trust fund — he didn’t specify a dollar amount for either in his speech. 

In an effort to patch up St. Paul’s roads, the mayor proposed spending $20.3 million to reconstruction and resurfacing. Under his plan, Ayd Mill Road, which connects to Interstate 35 East, would shrink to two lanes on one side and be converted to a bikeway on the other.

Carter also proposed that community groups looking to get money for their capital investment project will no longer have to compete with police and fire stations. Instead, they would be able to apply for a portion of a $1 million neighborhood fund, which can go toward community improvements like safer bike paths or sidewalks. 

Economic development aims to address disparities

Frey made economic inclusion a major part of his budget, promising $4.4. million toward the goal, which he defined as “the implementation of specific solutions that undo the legacy of institutionalized exclusion of Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and immigrants and furthers the economic and social independence of these communities.” 

To that end, his budget funds the formation of “cultural districts” located at West Broadway Avenue, Central Avenue, Cedar Riverside, East Lake Street, Franklin, and 38th Street that would receive extra funding from the city. One such district in the works is the “Africa Village” in Cedar Riverside proposed by Ward 6 Council Member Abdi Warsame.

“Cedar-Riverside has always been a cultural district for our community; it’s home, it’s our Ellis Island,” said Warsame in an interview.

Of the proposal to add 14 new officers to the MPD, Warsame said: “It’s a start.”

Mayor Jacob Frey’s address came in fits and starts as protesters interrupted his speech throughout the hour-long presentation.
MinnPost photo by Tiffany Bui
Mayor Jacob Frey’s address came in fits and starts as protesters interrupted his speech throughout the hourlong presentation.
“We basically need to change the perception that exists in my ward, which is people feel unsafe,” he said. “It’s not just that crime is high, it’s just that the perception that crime is high needs to be dealt [with] too … the biggest thing that will have the biggest impact is creating new jobs.”

Other efforts toward this idea of economic inclusion are a $75,000 alternative to cash bail, which would go toward a program headed by the City and Hennepin County to allow individuals to be released with no cash bail pre-arraignment, for non-DWI and non-domestic offenses. 

Frey would also make $2.5 million in seed money available for a no-interest loan meant to encourage underserved communities to purchase property. 

In St. Paul, Carter proposed allocating $30,000, with funding from corporate and private philanthropy, towards setting 5,000 St. Paul residents up with a bank account. The proposal is part of a national initiative called BankOn, which connects “underbanked” individuals with mainstream bank accounts, rather than relying on fringe methods to access their money.

In light of the city’s increased minimum wage, the St. Paul mayor also proposed adding money to increase the number of city staff who will enforce the new rule. 

Carter also lauded the beginning of St. Paul’s $500,000 college-bound initiative, which will provide a college savings account with $50 in it to each child born on or after Jan. 1, 2020. 

The mayors’ proposals will now be taken up by the respective city councils. St. Paul City Council’s budget committee will begin its review on Aug. 21, while Minneapolis will meet Sept. 9. 

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by lisa miller on 08/16/2019 - 04:25 pm.

    Police response and crime prevention are not one and the same. Even with prevention efforts you need cops to respond to emergencies. Proper training is also another issue, but should not impact how many cops are available to respond. Even co responder programs, require in situations where there are weapons or threats to safety for police to first stabilize the situation. It would be helpful to have more articles on neighborhoods directly affected by the violence. Property taxes for elders is also a big issue, the taxes are becoming so high, some can’t keep up.

  2. Submitted by Julie Stroeve on 08/17/2019 - 08:50 am.

    As a senior citizen who lives on $2000 a month, I can’t support a 6.95% property tax increase on top of other recent significant increases. What about tax abatements for low-income seniors so we can afford to stay in Minneapolis, support its businesses and contribute to our community? I’m skeptical of the idea of adding police to the force. Is our current force being utilized efficiently and effectively? More police isn’t necessarily the silver bullet the mayor may be seeking.

  3. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 08/17/2019 - 09:42 am.

    Let’s see — they want to tax more and spend more???

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